Fresh Direct Delivers Dirty Air to the Bronx

Fresh Direct's relocation to the South Bronx will bring truck traffic and pollution | Photo:

The South Bronx, an area with some of the highest asthma rates in the country, will soon be getting more than fresh food from Fresh Direct.  Local residents can now expect more traffic and pollution as a result of the deal that relocates the food delivery company to the South Bronx.

While the $127.8 million subsidy package-which has good government, transportation, environmental and social justice groups rallying in opposition-keeps Fresh Direct from leaving New York City for New Jersey, the deal missed an opportunity to mitigate transportation, environmental, and health impacts to nearby residents, as well as the chance to reshape how the movement of goods occurs in the region.

An area already home to busy roadways, truck routes, and waste transfer facilities will now see more traffic and pollution even with Fresh Direct’s plan to purchase new electric trucks with federal grant money.  Unfortunately, those vehicles will comprise only a small portion of the fleet, and the community will see little in the way of tangible benefits. That’s because while each truck won’t emit pollutants, electric vehicles still cause truck traffic, and don’t address community concerns like illegal parking, trucks using unsanctioned routes, and dangerous speeds.

Despite the over reliance on trucks to move goods into and out of New York City, government agencies and elected officials failed to encourage Fresh Direct to use the state-of-the-art rail infrastructure adjacent to the company’s new facility.  If they had done so, and Fresh Direct committed to capitalizing on the rail lines in its expansion application, improved air and reduced congestion would have resulted.  According to CSX Transportation, one train could have carried the same load as 280 trucks.

Economic development is welcome in the South Bronx, but not at the expense of community life. Inviting more truck traffic into the area without fully addressing its pollution and traffic impacts is a missed opportunity to rework freight transportation policy in the region, and one that community advocates see as an injustice.

3 Comments on "Fresh Direct Delivers Dirty Air to the Bronx"

  1. More here, thanks for your good work.

    This would be a joke if the criminal misuse of our public money was not so serious. Of the $130 million, they are proposing for the public to give fresh direct $1million dollars to buy ten small trucks, giving more public money to Smith Electric, that got cash and tax credits form the friendly NYCIDA too. Imagine the benefit that money could have for existing small businesses. Essentially the public is paying for the fresh direct trucks to compete unfairly against existing supermarkets and bodegas while they pay their workers $8 an hour. It makes no sense and demands investigation.

    Finally, electric trucks are not clean. Where does the electricity come from? Fossil fuels like coal and oil and methane gas, with four power plants on the waterfront of the South Bronx. So again, these trucks would run clean through the Upper East Side while the South Bronx gets the pollution from the refueling. It is terrible on every level. The waterfront has better potential for mixed use development that would create more jobs and environmental benefits of open space.

  2. Clark Morris | February 23, 2012 at 9:12 pm |

    Where is Fresh Direct getting the food? Is it really feasible to have it shipped in by rail. Remember anything coming from the south, even Philadelphia must go by way of Albany to get to the Bronx. I agree with Jennifer about the subsidies.

  3. Dart Westphal | February 27, 2012 at 11:11 am |

    While Fresh Direct will deliver dirty air to the Bronx, we should all be clear about what it won’t deliver – food. Other than to Riverdale, Fresh Direct does not deliver to the Bronx. So while we will get the truck traffic we will not get the service those trucks provide.

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